No. 23 Baylor at No. 2 Kansas
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 3 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse
▪ TV/RADIO: CBS; KCSP (610 AM)
▪ ABOUT KANSAS (11-1): Conference play is here. In the past five seasons, Kansas leads all Big 12 teams with 126 victories. Who’s second? Baylor, the Jayhawks’ opponent in their Big 12 opener on Saturday. The Bears have 113 wins over that span, and to illustrate the depth of the Big 12 this season, they are not one of the biggest threats to the Jayhawks’ conference title streak. That would be No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 11 Iowa State, or perhaps even No. 19 West Virginia. But as Kansas chases its 12th straight conference title, Bill Self has to be pleased with the performance of his team. The Jayhawks rank seventh in the nation in scoring (87.2) and fourth in the country in three-point shooting (45 percent). They are the only team in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. After Tuesday’s victory over UC Irvine, Self answered one of the team’s biggest questions, saying he would likely lean on his veteran big men during the early stretches of conference play. That means senior forward Hunter Mickelson will start again Saturday and junior Landen Lucas could see significant minutes while guarding Baylor big man Rico Gathers. “He’s going to get his and he's going to get rebounds and things like that,” Self said this week. “We just can't let him get huge numbers.” Historical trends, of course favor Kansas. The Jayhawks are 28-4 all-time against Baylor and 13-0 in Lawrence.
▪ ABOUT BAYLOR (10-2): In their 13th season under head coach Scott Drew, the Bears enter Big 12 play at 10-2 and appear poised for a third straight run to the NCAA Tournament. The Bears, who feature two of the best forwards in the conference, have suffered losses at Oregon and at Texas A&M. Senior forward Taurean Prince is averaging 15.5 points per game, while burly senior forward Rico Gathers is averaging a double-double (14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds). The key to stopping Baylor, though, appears to be slowing down Gathers, an All-Big 12 honoree last season. Gathers failed to reach double-figures scoring in both of the Bears’ losses. Baylor has been balanced on offense and defense, ranking 29th nationally in offensive efficiency and 43rd in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. The Bears lead the country in assists per game (22.7) and are a terror on the offensive glass, ranking sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. On defense, Baylor is playing less zone than it has in recent years, but that could change on Saturday. The Bears also have some Kansas City influence: Junior forward Ishmail Wainright, a starter, is a Kansas City native who spent time at Raytown South High School.
Rustin Dodd, email@example.com